COVID-19: Testing

Testing remains an important part of reducing the spread of COVID-19. All New Yorkers should get tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms or were recently exposed to someone with COVID-19.

How often you should get tested depends on whether or not you are vaccinated against COVID-19. People who are not fully vaccinated should get tested more often, even if they do not have symptoms or a recent exposure.

See below for more information about when to get tested, the types of COVID-19 tests available and how to interpret tests results.

Find a Testing Site

There are many health care providers, pharmacies and government facilities, including mobile and pop-up testing sites, offering testing — often free — throughout the city.

Here are some resources to help you find a location near you:

When you go for a test, you will not be asked about immigration status.

When to Get Tested

If You Are Fully Vaccinated

If you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (two weeks after the second dose of a two dose vaccine or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine) you should get tested:

  • Immediately if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Three to five days after having close contact (being within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes over a 24-hour period) with someone while they had COVID-19.

  • Three to five days following international travel.

Otherwise, people who are vaccinated do not need to get tested, unless it is required for work, school, travel or other reasons.

If You Are Not Fully Vaccinated

If you have not been vaccinated, you should get tested:

  • Immediately if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Three to five days after having close contact (being within 6 feet for at least 10 minutes over a 24-hour period) with someone when they had COVID-19, after returning from travel or after attending a large indoor gathering. If you have had a close contact, you must quarantine for 10 days after your last exposure, regardless of your test result.

  • Before you go to a wedding or other large event, or visit someone who is not vaccinated and at increased risk of severe COVID-19. Cancel your plans if you test positive, have symptoms of COVID-19 or had recent close contact with someone when they had COVID-19.

  • Periodically, such as monthly, if you have frequent in-person interactions with others at work or socially, especially if you are in close contact with people without face coverings in indoor settings.

Retesting After a Positive Diagnostic Test

If you recently recovered from COVID-19, you should not get retested for COVID-19 for at least three months after your symptoms began or, if you had no symptoms, from the date you were tested. You may continue to test positive for COVID-19, even though you are no longer contagious. If you develop new symptoms, talk to your health care provider.

Types of Tests

There are several different types of tests, with some more reliable than others or providing different types of information. Your health care provider can help you decide which type of test is best for you based on the reason for testing, such as recent exposure, presence of symptoms or periodic testing.

Diagnostic Tests

Molecular Tests

Molecular tests (nose or throat swab or saliva test), such as PCR tests, are the most reliable way to test for COVID-19. They can detect the virus even if there is only a small amount in your system.

These tests look for genetic material from the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2). They usually require the specimen to be sent to a laboratory, which is why it may take a few days to receive results. A unique process used at COVID-19 Express sites allow for molecular tests to return results usually within a few hours.

Antigen Tests

Antigen tests usually provide results faster than molecular tests but can be less accurate. These tests look for proteins on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Antigen tests usually can be processed in a health care provider’s office, rather than a laboratory, which is why they are less expensive and can return results quickly. However, they are more likely than molecular tests to return false positive test results (the test result is positive but the person does not have COVID-19) and false negative test results (the test result is negative even though the person has COVID-19). In certain cases, such as when a person is showing symptoms, health care providers may recommend a follow-up molecular test to confirm the results of an antigen test.

Antibody Tests

Antibody tests check the blood for signs that you have had the virus in the past. They require getting a blood sample through a finger stick or drawing blood from a vein in your arm.

An antibody test may not be accurate for someone with an active or recent infection or for other reasons.

An antibody test result should not be used to make any decisions about whether someone can work or attend school. Antibody tests for COVID-19 cannot be used to detect whether someone is currently sick or infected, or whether someone is immune to the virus.

Antibody tests are not recommended after vaccination. It is not known whether currently authorized antibody tests can determine the level of protection provided by a COVID-19 vaccination.

After a Test

If you test positive for COVID-19 through a diagnostic test, immediately separate yourself from others and contact your health care provider.

The NYC Test & Trace Corps can help you and your close contacts prevent the spread of the virus . If you cannot safely separate at home, you and those you may have exposed to the virus can qualify for a free hotel room.

You should stay isolated until all of the following are true:

  • It has been at least 10 days since:
    • You started having symptoms or
    • The date you were tested (if you did not have symptoms)
  • You have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without taking fever and pain-reducing medicines, such as Advil, Motrin, Tylenol or aspirin
  • Your overall illness has improved

If you develop trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in your chest, confusion, inability to stay awake, bluish lips or face, or any other emergency condition, call 911 immediately.

Additional Resources